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Antique vehicles take a ‘brake’ at first hangar party in Butler

Guest take photos and mingle during the Passport to Elegance Jet Center Party for the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix at Pittsburgh-Butler Regional Airport in Penn Township on Thursday July 21 2022. Justin Guido/ Special to the Eagle

PENN TWP — Michael Schindel’s 1974 911 Porsche will be flying through the streets of Pittsburgh at around 100 miles per hour Saturday, alongside dozens of other vintage race cars for the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix.

But on Thursday, Schindel, who is from Gibsonia, and his vehicle hunkered down at the Pittsburgh-Butler Regional Airport for the Passport to Elegance Jet Center Party, where he and a number of other vintage vehicle enthusiasts could talk about their rides before race day.

Schindel said vintage racing is known as “gentlemen’s racing” among enthusiasts for a reason.

“In vintage racing, people are more respective of the car,” Schindel said. “In professional racing, if you wreck a car, the sponsor will buy you a new one. You can’t do that with these vintage cars.”

The drivers in the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix took a pit stop in Butler for a “hangar party” Thursday evening, in the middle of a 10-day event that has taken them on a tour of Allegheny and Butler counties.

Michael Schindel of Treesdale shows off his vintage car during the Passport to Elegance Jet Center Party for the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix at Pittsburgh-Butler Regional Airport in Penn Twp on Thursday July 21 2022. Justin Guido/ Special to the Eagle

While the event started in Pittsburgh and takes place mainly in Allegheny County, the annual “hangar party,” which took place at the Butler County airport for the first time, also sold out its tickets for the first time in its three-year history.

The event was almost canceled because of the closure of the usual event site, a hangar at the Allegheny County Airport. But Scott Kerr, who is a committee member for the Grand Prix race week, pitched the move to Butler County, which paid off for the organization.

“It's the first time anything like this has been held at the Butler airport, and there is certainly a lot of enthusiasm in the area for it,” Kerr said. “It's a mixture of very high-end automobiles, high-end contemporary and vintage airplanes. It's a strolling, heavy socializing event.”

The two hangars at the airport were filled with vintage cars, whose designs emanated their speedy nature despite being parked at a standstill the duration of the event, which began at 6 p.m. Additionally, the hangars held vehicles more likely to be found at an airport, airplanes and helicopters, which were brought by vintage enthusiasts as well as aficionado pilots.

Overall, there were about a half-dozen planes, a helicopter and about 25 cars available for viewing at the event.

Dan DelBianco, executive director of the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix, said the hangar party is one of the big opportunities for the organization to raise awareness of its purpose and of its cause. The Grand Prix donates proceeds to charities aimed at autism aid, which made the sellout crowd all the more pleasing.

“We're pumped because it's more money for the charities in the end,” DelBianco said. “We raise all the money for autism charities and that's what's really special about this event.”

After hunkering down for the hangar party, members of the vintage organization were scheduled to show their cars in Squirrel Hill the next day, then race their vehicles around Schenley Park in Pittsburgh.

Michael Schindel of Treesdale talks about his vintage car during the Passport to Elegance Jet Center Party for the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix at Pittsburgh-Butler Regional Airport in Penn Township on Thursday, July 21 2022. Justin Guido/ Special to the Eagle

According to Schindel, the course around Schenley Park is a three-mile circuit with 22 turns, that will have around 120 cars participating. While the race is high-octane, many drivers are equally impressed by the car as they are the person behind the wheel.

“It’s very competitive, but also people are respectful of the time and machinery you put into your car,” he said.

David Ley, of Mars, brought his 1955 Austin-Healey 100M to the party. He said he has worked on the car for around six years, and hopes to get his provisional racing license soon.

“I’ve been into it since I was a kid,” Ley said. “Everywhere I take it, people want to know how much time I spend on it, what’s in the engine.”

Kerr said he is proud to have hosted the Grand Prix, which he has been involved with for years, in Butler for the first time. He said organizers were impressed by the airport, and he hopes they take a positive view of Butler County with them back to their hometowns.

“This could change people’s perception of what is going on up here,” Kerr said. “I’m hoping this opens people’s eyes to it.”

David Ley of Mars shows off his Vintage Grand Prix car during the Passport to Elegance Jet Center Party for the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix at Pittsburgh-Butler Regional Airport in Penn Township on Thursday. Justin Guido/ Special to the Eagle
Jim Savage of Treesdale takes signs off his aircraft “Executive” during the Passport to Elegance Jet Center Party for the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix at Pittsburgh-Butler Regional Airport in Penn Twp on Thursday. Justin Guido/ Special to the Eagle
A popular thing to do was take photos with the reflect on the tip of of Jim Savage of Treesdale “Executive” during the Passport to Elegance Jet Center Party for the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix at Pittsburgh-Butler Regional Airport in Penn Township on Thursday. Justin Guido/ Special to the Eagle

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